Sizing seizes the moment

THREE years ago Sizing Europe started favourite for the Champion Hurdle and looked all over a winner going down to the second last.

Coming away from the flight, however, he punctured like a pricked balloon and came home 14th of 15 behind Katchit.

A year later he was again on the Champion Hurdle trail and travelled to the meeting. Sizing Europe didn’t run, however, being withdrawn with transit sickness the day before.

He returned to Ireland with an uncertain future and, seemingly, with neither the constitution nor the bottle to make it at the highest level.

But trainer Henry de Bromhead never lost faith and began the painstaking job of redeeming Sizing Europe’s reputation.

He nursed him back to full fitness and began the job of restoring the horse’s confidence. Last year Sizing Europe was at least back on track when scrambling to Arkle glory here over Somersby.

De Bromhead toyed with the notion of making his charge a Gold Cup contender and ran him against Kauto Star at Down Royal.

Then he took him to Kempton at Christmas for the King George, but the meeting was postponed.

Sizing Europe didn’t go back for the re-arranged King George and, by mid-January, the decision was made to head for the two-mile Champion Chase.

If de Bromhead lives to be a hundred, he will never again make a call as correct as that one. Yesterday, Sizing Europe took the pin from the grenade and simply exploded.

He won what looked a fiercely competitive Champion Chase in a canter, by five lengths, finally producing the type of performance of which de Bromhead always believed him capable.

Andrew Lynch, displaying further evidence of his growing standing in the game, was positive and quite brilliant.

De Bromhead told him he didn’t want the race developing into a sprint and Lynch, courageously, committed Sizing Europe early on the final circuit.

Big Zeb, who only got it wrong at one fence, ranged up as a major danger off the home turn. The old Sizing Europe would almost certainly have folded.

But this new version is made of sterner stuff. He eyeballed Big Zeb, refused to be intimidated and then, almost casually, swept away for as clear-cut a success as you could wish to see in a Grade 1.

“That was amazing, unbelievable, I doubt I will ever have another horse like him”, said de Bromhead.

“He is a very fine moving horse and just loves galloping. He’s a strong galloper and winged his fences.

“I told Andrew not to get done for speed. He is a great horseman and a very nice guy. He works hard, driving the length and breadth of the country. Nothing is ever too much for him and it is easy to work with a guy like that.

“Good ground makes such a difference to this horse. He’s very much more relaxed these days, either dead or in a chilled-out zone. All I was doing was praying, but knew he’d stay up the hill.”

“I can’t see any reason why Sizing Europe won’t go to Punchestown, this was only his fourth run of the season. Ann and Alan (Potts, owners) love Punchestown.’

Lynch said: “Sizing Europe jumped an awful lot better today and travelled really well. I was afraid that something would quicken past us up the straight, but he is a hardy boyo.

“Henry always felt that he wanted a soundly run two-mile race and that this was the only one all year round that would suit him.”

Colm Murphy was philosophical after watching Big Zeb fail to retain his crown. Said Murphy: “He ran a blinder and the winner was very good. We will freshen him up now and have a look at taking him to Punchestown.”

Overall it was a remarkable race for Ireland, on a remarkable day for the country, with Captain Cee Bee (third) and Golden Silver (fourth) ensuring a clean sweep for us.

Master Minded blundered two out, but was already beaten and Paul Nicholls is now talking about moving him up in trip next season.

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